Click here to bypass page layout and jump directly to story.=

UC Berkeley >

University of California

News - Media Relations






  Press Releases

  Image Downloads



UC Berkeley's new Free Speech Movement Café, honoring 1964 struggle, to be dedicated Thursday
02 Feb 2000

By José Rodríguez, Development Communications

BERKELEY--A landmark struggle that guaranteed free speech in 1964 is being honored with a new café at the University of California, Berkeley - the birthplace of the student movement that resonated across the country.

The Free Speech Movement Café will be dedicated tomorrow (Thursday, Feb. 3) at a 5 p.m. ceremony that will include alumni of the movement, UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl, and alumnus Stephen M. Silberstein, whose gift funded the new space at the James K. Moffitt Undergraduate Library.

Amid a seemingly endless variety of local coffee shops, the café, which opened last month, is not just another cool place for UC Berkeley students to grab a cup of java. It was designed as an educational venture with permanent and rotating exhibits around the theme of free inquiry, befitting its namesake movement.

The 1,460-square-foot space features wall-length images of events that occurred at UC Berkeley in a three-month period between October and December of 1964, when students demanded that the university honor their right to advocate political causes on campus.

With the café, the university is acknowledging the impact of the 1964 movement to question the purpose of universities and education in general, said Berdahl, a professor of history and public policy at UC Berkeley. It offers a point of reference to today's students, inviting them to become familiar with a part of UC Berkeley's history and to understand how commonplace rights came to be recognized.

"The Free Speech Movement created a culture of student expression and inquiry that today is intrinsic to Berkeley and higher education in general," the chancellor said. "Berkeley's excellence rests, in part, on our intellectual culture that embraces free speech and the critical and civil exchange of ideas."

The $3.5-million gift that funded the café also established a Free Speech Movement digitized archive at the Bancroft Library and a much-needed endowment to supplement the university's collections in the humanities.

In 1964, free speech was not guaranteed for students, and they were barred from advocating for political causes on campus.

UC Berkeley philosophy student Mario Savio challenged this prohibition by launching a nonviolent movement that asked students, faculty, and administrators at UC Berkeley to rethink their roles in a university setting.

On Oct. 1, 1964, campus police arrested Jack Weinberg, 24, for setting up an unauthorized table in Sproul Plaza on behalf of The Congress on Racial Equality. For 32 hours, students blocked the police car with Weinberg inside, while Savio and others climbed atop it to deliver speeches defending the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

Three months of unprecedented activism followed, culminating in a student strike and sit-in on Dec. 2. Police and law-enforcement officials arrested nearly 800 protesters - the largest mass arrest in California history.

In the days following, the UC Berkeley faculty voted to drop university restrictions on speech.

"This café is a living tribute to the intellectual courage, heart, and sacrifice of Mario Savio and those students who stepped forward in 1964 for the rights of students who so desired to be able to participate in societal discussions and actions concerning issues of the day," said Silberstein. "Despite great personal and family sacrifice, they spoke up for the ideals upon which our society is based and in which we all believe: a more just world, civil rights, and the removal of limitations on the free discussion and advocacy of ideas. We're better off as a country because of what happened here."

Silberstein attended UC Berkeley before the Free Speech Movement and served as a University Library computer systems analyst for 10 years before co-founding his own company, Innovative Interfaces. The Emeryville-based company develops automated systems for libraries, including more than 1,000 college and university libraries around the world.

Savio, who influenced not only life at UC Berkeley, but at universities around the world, went on to raise a family and, while shying from the limelight, remained firm to principles of activism and social justice, speaking out on many causes until his death in 1996.

Also present at the dedication ceremony will be Savio's widow, Lynne Hollander, and his two sons, Nadav and Daniel.

The café was designed by Swatt Architects. The University Library is the fourth-largest academic research library in the United States and Canada in terms of the number of items in its collections.
at has been these four years."


UC Berkeley | News | Archives | Extras | Media Relations

Comments? E-mail

Copyright 2000 UC Regents. All rights reserved.